Oil and Vinegar; two things that are completely opposite, but still work together to form something wonderful. Yes, we’re talking about salad dressing. But, something as simple as salad dressing perfectly exemplifies how two contrary things, when combined, bring out each other’s strengths. The oil helps the flavor, transported in the vinegar, grip the leafy greens; turning something ordinary into something extraordinary. This collaboration is evident not only on our salad plates, but in the business community as well.

And that is the theme we discovered in our latest search for people living “The Haute Life” – two opposite people pooling their talent to make something wonderful.

We were recently introduced to a couple of talented women who are completely different, but who work together not only to design, create, and deliver a beautiful product but also to serve our community by creating jobs for women. Carina Donoso and Kristen Lambert, owners of luxury knitwear Third Piece, are two seriously cool chicks; one a master of style and the other a master of commerce.

So, how did these two women come to own a company that makes and sells fabulous knitwear accessories? Their story is just as cool as they are. 🙂

Carina Donoso started knitting when she was just 13-years-old when a guidance counselor suggested she try the hobby as a means to alleviate anxiety. From that point, yarn would weave its way throughout Carina’s life, eventually becoming the medium that would help her find success as a designer.

Carina, a New York native and fashion addict, moved to Massachusetts for school; first to the North Shore and then the Fashion School on Newbury Street. But, in her own words, as much as she adored fashion, she failed at construction. So, as someone who lived for fashion, she found her way as a personal shopper in luxury retail. Being a smart girl, she continued her education by taking business classes at Lasell.

Throughout all of this, Carina kept her knitting needles moving; providing an outlet for her creativity and a means for her to obtain things she wanted but couldn’t find. She craved gorgeous chunky knits made from soft cuddly yarn. And so, when an idea popped into her head, she took out her needles and got to work making what she saw in her mind’s eye.

Soon Carina found love and got engaged. She also changed pace with her job and entered the world of retail management at Alex and Ani. It was here that she found inspiration from the founders. She wanted her own business and she had an idea. It centered around the philosophy of never leaving home without wearing “the third piece.” Maybe she could sell those thick and luxurious accessory pieces she had been knitting; maybe people would buy those “third pieces” to a woman’s wardrobe.

At the same time, Northeastern Business School graduate, Kristen Lambert, was also looking for inspiration. Kristen studied economics at Bentley University and then received her MBA. But the woman who had a knack for analyzing and extracting the best methodology wasn’t happy with her finance job. She wanted to use her talents as an entrepreneur.

Kristen was getting married; life was moving forward and she recognized the importance of choosing a career that would make her happy. She wanted to manage the process of creating a wonderful product. She didn’t want to manage people’s money.

So, as we love to see, fate stepped into the situation and put together these two women who had completely different skill sets yet who both were in the same phase of life; getting married and nurturing the desire to create a business.

They met at the gym.

And they instantly connected.

Carina, the fashion lover, styled her smarty-pants friend Kristen. They talked about their impending weddings. Eventually, Carina talked about her knitting. Ironically, Kristen thought it was comical. C’mon- knitting? That was until she saw the products. As a consumer, she instantly recognized the immense value of Carina’s “Third Piece” creations. They were beautiful. She hadn’t seen anything like them. They were a viable product.

Carina also knew they were good. These scarves and hats were her passion. And, working in high-end retail she knew there wasn’t anything as rich in texture and style on the market. So, she talked about listing a few on Esty. But, Kristen immediately knew that although people would buy them on Etsy, they were worthy of so much more. They needed analysis and a business plan; they were worthy of strategy and implementation. Kristen had found her career.

Carina and Kristen forged a partnership, pulling in Carina’s knitting mentor Paula. The women then called out to the knitting community to pull together a group of talented people to help knit the creations that would utilize Carina and Kristen’s talents and then realize their dream.

In 2012, The Third Piece debuted in a series of trunk shows. The women received valuable feedback from consumers about their products, and it was good. So, with a healthy bit of confidence on their side (and amazing accessories) the pair headed to what was the “American Idol” for the fashion world- open call at Henri Bendel. They stood in line for hours like they were song birds waiting to stun Simon. When they got to the front table and met with the buyers, magic happened. Carina and Kristen’s passion for the product was validated; within a month Henri Bendel picked up their collection. Doors opened.

But the doors had tricky hinges. Large orders would strain the small, hand-made in Massachusetts company. A major part of the product was the yarn. It needed to be soft and pliable to fold into the rich and chunky knits Carina was designing. But, occasionally, the material supplier would fall through and that had devastating potential. Kristen took to the sky and used her bird’s eye view to come up with a solution. They needed to create their own yarn.

This business decision also helped to feed another part of the business; the maker’s market. You might not be aware, but there is a big trend of people wanting to make their own things. From beer to cheese to scarves, we want to create and participate in the world around us. So, The Third Piece started offering workshops as well as patterns to their gorgeous pieces. And with creating their own “Funky Chunky” 100% merino wool, they then had the product to sell with the patterns. The big picture was coming in more clearly with Kristen’s analysis.

Today, you can find The Third Piece at places like Bergdorf Goodman, ShopBop, Gretta Lux, Bliss Boutiques, and Scoop. And recently, at a pop-up shop at 177 Newbury Street, which is where we met Carina and Kristen and fell in love with their gorgeous pieces. Jess bought an amazing navy fringe cowl.

Carina strives to continue to grow and create, but also to inspire other’s to create their own third pieces. Kristen acknowledges the challenges and sacrifices that come along with being a business owner. But, she is also incredibly proud that they provide jobs to people in Massachusetts. All of their products are locally and lovingly hand-made by people, who like Carina, have a love for knitting. These gorgeous knitwear pieces are made by talented people who otherwise would probably never have the chance to make money by doing something they love.

And so as we look at these amazing creations, the thickly knitted stitches remind us of the importance of balance. Just as one stitch launches outward, there is an opposite stitch providing support. They hold each other together, creating something beautiful. This is much like the partnership of Carina and Kristen; two women who are completely opposite, but who work together to create really cool things. And we’re pretty sure that partnership is just as beautiful as their spectacular products.

Thank you to Carina and Kristen for their time and for the wonderful addition they have added to the Massachusetts business community. If success is achieved via passion and well-developed products, then you two are in for boatloads. 🙂

Cheers! The Haute Life